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Decision Making for Treatment After ACL Injury From an Orthopaedic Surgeon and Patient Perspective: Results From the NACOX Study

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posted on 05.07.2021, 02:08 by HT Grevnerts, S Sonesson, H Gauffin, Clare Ardern, A Stålman, J Kvist
Background: In the treatment of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, there is little evidence of when and why a decision for ACL reconstruction (ACLR) or nonoperative treatment (non-ACLR) is made. Purpose: To (1) describe the key characteristics of ACL injury treatment decisions and (2) compare patient-reported knee instability, function, and preinjury activity level between patients with non-ACLR and ACLR treatment decisions. Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2. Methods: A total of 216 patients with acute ACL injury were evaluated during the first year after injury. The treatment decision was non-ACLR in 73 patients and ACLR in 143. Reasons guiding treatment decision were obtained from medical charts and questionnaires to patients and orthopaedic surgeons. Patient-reported instability and function were obtained via questionnaires and compared between patients with non-ACLR and ACLR treatment decisions. The ACLR treatment group was classified retrospectively by decision phase: acute phase (decision made between injury day and 31 days after injury), subacute phase (decision made between 32 days and up to 5 months after injury), and late phase (decision made 5-12 months after injury). Data were evaluated using descriptive statistics, and group comparisons were made using parametric or nonparametric tests as appropriate. Results: The main reasons for a non-ACLR treatment decision were no knee instability and no problems with knee function. The main reasons for an ACLR treatment decision were high activity demands and knee instability. Patients in the non-ACLR group were significantly older (P =.031) and had a lower preinjury activity level than did those in the acute-phase (P <.01) and subacute-phase (P =.006) ACLR decision groups. There were no differences in patient-reported instability and function between treatment decision groups at baseline, 4 weeks after injury, or 3 months after injury. Conclusion: Activity demands, not patient-reported knee instability, may be the most important factor in the decision-making process for treatment after ACL injury. We suggest a decision-making algorithm for patients with ACL injuries and no high activity demands; waiting for >3 months can help distinguish those who need surgical intervention from those who can undergo nonoperative management. Registration: NCT02931084 ( identifier).


This study is a part of the NACOX cohort, which is supported by the Swedish Medical Research Council, the Swedish Research Council for Sport Science, the Medical Research Council of Southeast Sweden, and ALF Grants Region Ostergotland. AOSSM checks author disclosures against the Open Payments Database (OPD). AOSSM has not conducted an independent investigation on the OPD and disclaims any liability or responsibility relating thereto.


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Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine





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